Renowned international hotel developer and South African-born real estate magnate Sol Kerzner, who founded the Southern Sun Hotel Group and Sun International, has died.
The 84-year old Sol Kerzner died at his Hout Bay home in Cape Town on Saturday, arguably most famous for developing some of the world’s most spectacular gambling resorts.
Kerzner was pivotal in putting South Africa on the tourist map. He developed some of the country’s top hotel brands: first Southern Sun and Sun International, and then the projects that catapulted him into the league of hotel tycoon, Sun City and The Palace of the Lost City.
“Sol was a giant in the tourism industry, known across the world for his role in growing the hotel and hospitality industry. It was under his stewardship that Sun City was built in 1979, one of the largest resort projects on the African continent at the time. His life was exciting and dynamic, providing entertainment for millions and inspiring others to follow in his footsteps. May his soul rest in peace.” said Sun International CEO Anthony Leeming.
The youngest of four children, he was born in Doornfontein, Johannesburg to Lithuanian-born Jewish immigrants. His parents ran a store selling fruit and vegetables.
His breakthrough project was the construction of the Beverley Hills in Umhlanga Rocks – the first five-star hotel in South Africa. Partnering with South African Breweries to establish Southern Sun Hotels, he operated 30 luxury hotels by 1983.
In 1975, Kerzner started with the creation of Sun City. A construction project that lasted ten years, the location was made up of four hotels, a man-made lake, two golf courses and a 6 000-seat arena and entertainment centre. The venue played host to various celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Queen.
In 1994, Kerzner was asked by President Nelson Mandela to arrange the VIP function for his presidential inauguration.
Kerzner would later found the One&Only Resorts, which operates luxury properties in countries the Bahamas, Mexico, the Maldives, Mauritius, Dubai, and South Africa. In 2009, he opened the One&Only hotel at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.
In the mid-90s, Kerzner opened a casino in Connecticut in the US, and then bought a bankrupt development in the Bahamas which would eventually become the thriving Atlantis Resort. It features a massive water park, with various hotel options and a casino.
In 2002, Kerzner launched One&Only Resorts which operates various hotels in the Bahamas, Mexico, Mauritius, The Maldives and Dubai. In 2008, he opened the $1.5 billion Atlantis, The Palms on a man-made island in Dubai.
Its $20 million launch party was the most expensive on record, and featured the world’s biggest fireworks display at that stage, as well as artists like Kylie Minogue and Michael Jackson. The hotel features a life-size replica of a Mayan temple and almost 3 000 rooms.
Kerzner was knighted by the British Queen in 2010 after being nominated by the Bahamas government as the largest employer in that country.
In 2014, he exited Kerzner International and retired as chairman of the company.
Kerzner is survived by his children Andrea, Beverley, Brandon and Chantal and ten grandchildren. His eldest son, Howard ‘Butch’ Kerzner died in 2006.
“Sol Kerzner will be buried in a small, private funeral with only immediate family in attendance,” Kerzner family spokesperson Ian Douglas said.